Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fleeting Fidelity

Although I’m sick and tired of seeing Tiger’s mug on the TV and Internet, over the last couple weeks, I’ve found myself engaging in (even initiating) conversations about marriage and infidelity just about every chance I get. Everyone I speak with seems to agree that cheating is wrong, yet the book I’m reading right now claims that 25% of men and 15% of women cheat on their spouses at some point during marriage.

And I want to know, why are people doing it?

I’m not claiming to be some pious individual who has never cheated. I’ve been the cheater, I’ve been the other woman and I’ve been cheated on. But I’ve never been married—these indiscretions all involved other single people—and I think that matters tremendously.

I cannot imagine vowing to be faithful to someone until death, and then tossing that promise out the window for a few kicks or an ego boost. Maybe I am naïve. But I would like to think I would try to address whatever was making me consider other men—solve the problem—or separate or divorce my husband before ever shacking up with someone else.

I know it’s tough to end relationships. I know that even in the worst dating situations, sometimes it’s hard to turn away from months and years of semi-comfort to go out and find something new and better. I know there are tons of emotions involved, and in a lot of marriages there are children, which complicate things even more.

But I just can’t help but think that the inability to walk away or the audacity to be unfaithful is a direct reflection of broken self esteem. If you’re miserable in your marriage, why not sever the tie and find the relationship you know you deserve? If your husband or wife doesn’t make you feel sexy or macho or whatever it is, why not figure out a way to fix that instead of seeking it out somewhere else? Why create a scenario wherein you, your spouse and your “friend” could all get deeply hurt?

It’s also astounding to me how forgiving people, particularly women, are when they’ve been cheated on. Again, I have to wonder if this is a self esteem issue. Why would we allow someone to come back to us after they’ve so drastically disregarded our feelings? I remember being in that bargaining phase though…I remember feeling sorry for my Evil Ex and having moments where I thought maybe if he got counseling we could work everything out. But how could I not always wonder whether he’d do it again? How could we really be a solid, trusting couple after that?

It could be human nature to jump from relationship to relationship. Maybe we really are not meant for monogamy. But I sort of think then we should just do away with marriage as well.

What do you all think about cheating? Is it a fact of life that should just be accepted? Or is it the abominable act some think it is?

A friend at work sent me a link to this segment series on NPR’s This American Life. It’s pretty fascinating. And quite sad. Definitely worth the listen if you have time.


brookem said...

i don't think it should be accepted. im with you in that if im going to say "i do" to someone, im in it for the long haul. and if im not? if i feel like i need to get out, to seek for something im not getting in my marriage with someone else? id either try to work on the marriage first, or end the marriage and then go after what i want. not the other way around.

i'd like to read that book you're reading- how is it?

Rach said...

I truly believe that more men cheat than anyone realizes. I know of many who do and who's(?) wives are "in denial" when all the facts except a naked woman in their beds are smacking them in the face. Women want to believe that they are immune from their men cheating or that they can prevent it. Sure - women cheat too, no doubt, and I'm not saying I think it's right. Just that I know it happens (no, not me) but that none of us can say how it should be handled until we are in the situations ourselves. People cheat for many reasons...low self esteem, spouses that won't/don't have frequent sex with them, for the excitement....on and on. You just have to work to make your marriage strong enough and hope it doesn't happen to you. And keep it real ;)

SoMi's Nilsa said...

Maybe it's not in a human's true nature to stick to only one mate?

With that said, I'd be furious if Sweets cheated on me.

thecoconutdiaries said...

First off, if these women are to be believed, did something that is so far beyond cheating it needs a whole new name. Not that 1 should be immediately forgiven but 3,4, 5 and 6 are just pitiful. Maybe if he worried more about the holes on the course, he wouldn't have gotten himself in this mess.

There's no one-stop-shop to explain infidelity. Some people, like Tiger, clearly orchestrate, plan, maneuver and cajole their way into. While others ride that slip-n-slide road into to it. You know, those ones where it starts out as talking. Then lunch. Then dinner. Then a hug. Then more stuff I can't write without blushing.

I think every case is different for every person. It's easy go to the standard toilet seat/need attention excuse because it's one everyone can understand. No one understands, "I'm totally happy, I just wanted to try it."

Being married doesn't come with an invisibility cloak. It doesn't shield you from attractive people, smart people, nefarious people. Being married is about making a choice.

Choosing to walk away from tempting situations. Choosing to not put yourself in potentially hazardous situations. It's about choosing to stay faithful. To keep it in your pants. To make sure your words and your actions match.

Dingo said...

I do believe that TCD said it all. I do believe that there are people like Tiger Woods who seem to do it for the thrill without any emotional commitment to either partner(s). Then, there are others who seem to have a "real" relationship with their other partner but for some reason are unable to leave their husband/wife. And then there are all the people in between. I think the whys are different for every person. What I do think is that Tiger Woods and his wife will have a more difficult time rebuilding their relationship (if they want to) because everyone is in their face about such an intensely personal thing.

My opinion? Cut his lying, cheatin' ass loose. And drain him of his millions in the process.

justrun said...

I agree, I don't know why people do it (well, I think I know in some cases but not all, and maybe not ever REALLY) but I do think Tiger Woods' situation is different than "just" cheating. Ten plus women in 2-3 years is a sex addict, and when they finally sort all this out an interview him after he's been in rehab and therapy and his wife stays with him, you can remember I said it first. Or something.

Mandy's Kidding said...

Of course it shouldn't be accepted. We are not animals. We are human beings with the power of reason. You can choose to cheat, or you can choose not to cheat. It's that simple. And if you feel you can't keep yourself from cheating, you owe it to your significant other (I don't care whether there's a piece of paper making it legal, I care about whether you've promised someone that you will be monogamous) to let them know and end the relationship.

I found out six weeks after I gave birth to my son that his father had given me an STD. I have never gone through such a brutal and cruel betrayal, and a continuance of it afterwards. To lie to someone is to tell them that while YOU deserve to know what kind of relationship you are in, THEY do not deserve to know what kind of relationship they are in.

It is hubris of the sickest sort. Cheaters are selfish and care nothing for anyone else's feelings or lives. It took me years to return to the person I was before I met the cheater. The emotional abuse, the psychological games, the lying, the cheating, the diseases .... all of it while I was trying to care for a newborn.

I have nothing but absolute disgust for liars and cheaters. No sympathy whatsoever. They are the most selfish human beings on the planet. Fortunately I feel no need to punish them, because I know they will live with the karmic consequences of their actions.

Notice cheaters can never trust others, they always suspect that other people are cheating on them, lying to them, trying to pull one of on them. That is how they will go through their entire lives, afraid of getting caught for their own lies and afraid that other people are lying to them like they lie to everyone else.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, I can't even imagine being in a relationship, let alone having a second someone come along, find me attractive, and have relations with them as well.

Personally, I think a lot of it goes back to evolutionary biology. There's only a certain amount of time that's needed to raise a kid (usually three years), and that's why people start straying approximately three years after having a kid. Biologically, it's not good to have your genes only in one place, better to spread them out a bit. Marriage is a social construction piled on top of that: sometimes they work together, sometimes they're diametrically opposed.

So maybe those crazy "open marriage" people have it right after all...

Sizzle said...

So many people cheat. I don't think we're taught how to care for ourselves or even how to honor commitment. A lot of the time infidelity seems to come from a place of utter unhappiness and instead of fixing the relationship problems head on or leaving the relationship, people look outside for an ego boost or distraction. While I understand the draw, it's not an answer and frankly, it makes me hesitant to ever couple up.

blakspring said...

great insight in your post, and great comments. i sometimes wonder if monogomy is possible when you might be with your spouse for 60 years. and i do think that celebrities get more opportunities for straying than the average person. that being said, i do feel that most cheaters probably know deep down inside that they will cheat and should probably not get into a supposedly committed relationship.

i was married for almost 10 years and obviously it didn't work out, but i can't imagine even kissing another guy during that time. i'm sure my ex could have cheated if he wanted to as well, but i'm sure he didn't because he shared my views on that.

i've been seeing someone for a while now, but he understands that i got out of a long relationship and don't feel ready to commit yet. and he is ok with that. i call us "free agents". but if i do decide to take it a step further, i will know that it is my decision and i will be true to it.